|First appearance||Action Comics #1 (June 1938)|
|Created by||Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster|
|Place of origin||Krypton|
Superboy (Half Kryptonian DNA)
Kryptonians are an extraterrestrial race of humanoids within the DC Comics universe that originated on the planet Krypton. The term originated from the stories of DC Comics superhero, Superman. The stories also use "Kryptonian" as an adjective to refer to anything created by or associated with the planet itself or the culture that existed on it.
Members of the dominant species of the planet Krypton are indistinguishable from humans in terms of their appearance; their physiology and genetics, however, are vastly different, in some continuities Kryptonians are difficult to clone because their DNA is so complex that human science is unable to decipher it. The cellular structure of Kryptonians allows for solar energy to be absorbed at extremely high levels. On the planet Krypton, whose sun was an ancient red supergiant with a relatively low energy output, their natural abilities were the same as humans. When exposed to a young yellow star like Earth's Sun, which is much smaller than their own sun and with a vastly higher energy output, their bodies are able to absorb and process so much energy that it eventually manifests as vast superhuman powers (such as superhuman strength, superhuman speed, invulnerability, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, and superhuman senses).
Almost all Kryptonians were killed when the planet exploded shortly after the infant Kal-El was sent to Earth. In some continuities, he is the planet's only survivor.
Physiology and powers
Kal-El can lead a double life as Clark Kent because Kryptonians are indistinguishable from humans. Also in Silver Age and Modern continuity Kryptonians have more than one ethnic group, such as dark-skinned Kryptonians from Krypton's Vathlo Island that resembles Earth humans of Sub-Saharan African descent, and a group from the continent of Twenx that resembles Earth Asian and Latino peoples. In the first stories about Superman's origins, all Kryptonians possess on their homeworld the same powers Superman has on Earth. In later depictions, their abilities are attributed to the differences between Earth's gravity and that of Krypton and the different radiation of the stars they orbit. Kryptonians use solar energy from yellow, blue, orange or white stars on the cellular and molecular levels to gain superhuman abilities. The light of dwarf stars, pulsars, and quasars also grants Kryptonians different abilities. Some stories also show that Kryptonians have bioelectric fields that surround their bodies and protect them from harm  and which are the means by which Kryptonians fly. Certain individuals (including Conner Kent, Chris Kent, and some Phantom Zone criminals) have sometimes been depicted with "tactile telekinesis". The abilities of Kryptonians evolve and grow more powerful as Kryptonians age and develop.
Mating between Kryptonians and other species is difficult because Kryptonian DNA is so complex as to be nearly incompatible with that of other species. The only notable exception is represented by the original native Daxamite population (the race that bore that name before intermingling with the Kryptonian explorers who later adapted the name for themselves). Breeding between Kryptonian explorers and this race created a new Kryptonian hybrid race that could interbreed with a larger number of humanoid races—including Earth humans. No other races are yet known to exhibit the same degree of compatibility of the Native Daxamites.
Kryptonians are a highly culturally and technologically advanced people. Self-grown crystals, both natural and synthetic, which covered the vast majority of their planet's surface gave their homeworld a bluish hue when viewed from space and underlay Kryptonian technology. Relatively small crystals can hold vast amounts of information. The Fortress of Solitude is often portrayed as a recreation of Krypton's surface and a storehouse for all the knowledge that the Kryptonian race had obtained.
A pictographic crest or symbol represents each Kryptonian family, or House; the head of the house usually wears it. According to the Superman movie and sequels, a shape similar to the Latin letter "S" represents the House of El, for example. Superman wears this same symbol on his costume, which therefore serves a dual purpose: it displays his Kryptonian heritage as well as functioning as the "S" for Superman. Male Kryptonians are identified by hyphenated names, which identify both them and their houses, such as "Jor-El" and "Kal-El" (of the House of El). Female Kryptonians have one given name but take their father's name as their last name. For example, Kal-El's mother is named Lara Lor-Van, taken from her father's name (Lor-Van).
The different Houses were also broken up into a loosely based caste system as well. The Religious, Artist, Military, and Science caste had representation on the ruling council, while the Workers caste did not. The different castes lived in buildings with different architectural styles that represented various styles throughout Krypton's history.
The severe xenophobia of Kryptonian society conveniently explains Kal-El's being the first Kryptonian to leave the planet. Non-superpowered Kryptonians are genetically dependent to their home planet; as such, Kal-El was sent to Earth as a newly conceived embryo within a birthing matrix in order to survive in Earth's atmosphere. He was also devoid of any Kryptonian minerals because any such minerals would turn to Kryptonite upon leaving Krypton's atmosphere. Kryptonians are evolutionarily related to the also severely xenophobic Daxamite. The Daximites remain that way up through the 31st century.
Kryptonian Law did not believe in capital punishment. Instead, the worst criminals were sent to the Phantom Zone despite a lack of understanding of the nature of the zone, its danger to the imprisoned, and the presence of exits.
Rao was the name of Krypton's red sun. It was worshiped by the Kryptonians as a deity (albeit in a more scientific and rational way as the giver and sustainer of all life on the planet).
While many Kryptonians wear brightly colored clothes on a daily basis, formal occasions such as funerals and certain council meetings require everyone to wear white. The white formal clothes are often luminescent.
The Kryptonian society, as described in Lois and Clark (at least, according to what was seen of its surviving colony) is ruled by aristocracy. Arranged marriages between the members of nobility are common, sometimes as early as birth (as was revealed to be the case with Kal-El), and numerous concubines are allowed. Settling of noble disputes by private duels is fully legal (although highly uncommon) and apparently gives advantages in terms of reputation. Criminals are punished for capital crimes by having their bodies dispersed across the universe (the process is reversible, at least until a certain stage). All Kryptonians are capable of long range telepathic communication. The society is highly pragmatic, and the Kryptonians seen were surprised and displeased with Clark's unwillingness to kill. Unlike in the comics, the main clothing color seen is black.
Language and alphabet
For most of Superman's published history, Kryptonian writing was represented by random, alien-looking squiggles. In the 1970s, E. Nelson Bridwell attempted to rationalize these squiggles into a 118-letter alphabet, referring to the language as "Kryptonese." This standardized alphabet was then used by DC Comics until John Byrne's 1986 "reboot" of the Superman universe.
In 2000, DC introduced a transliteration alphabet for the written language, dropping the "Kryptonese" moniker in favor of the more commonly assumed "Kryptonian." All such writing appearing in the comic books is actually just the language of publication (English in the USA & UK, French in France, etc.) written using this transliteration alphabet to replace the native alphabet with a one-to-one correspondence, in a similar fashion to Interlac in Legion of Super-Heroes.
On the television series Smallville, depictions of the written Kryptonian language began, primarily, with English transliterated into the official Kryptonian transliteration font - mirroring the practice of the comics. The style of these depictions has since evolved over the life of the series from decipherable transliterated writing to a more stylized (and indiscernible) form. In the process, an increasing amount of logographic components have been added with symbols that have been explained to represent words, ideas, or names.
In the episode "Gemini," a character muttering in an unconscious state is revealed to be speaking Kryptonian.
Man of Steel
The 2013 film Man of Steel featured Kryptonian writing created by graphic designer Kirsten Franson. The mechanics of the writing system (an abugida) as well as the Kryptonian language that it depicts (which was not spoken in the film) were created by Dr. Christine Schreyer, a linguistic anthropologist and assistant professor of anthropology working at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.
When Krypton was destroyed in an explosion, it was thought that the entire Kryptonian race was destroyed. This was untrue as the scientist Jor-El managed to send his newborn son, Kal-El, off-planet to Earth right before Krypton's demise. Kal-El grew up on Earth as Clark Kent, and eventually discovered his Kryptonian origins. Superman's cousin Supergirl also survived Krypton's destruction, as did Kristin Wells, who had been on the run in space at the time of the planet's destruction. Kryptonian survivors of alternate worlds such as Power Girl (Kara Zor-L) and the canine Krypto also reside on Earth. Kryptonians General Zod and Ursa are imprisoned within the Phantom Zone prior to Krypton's destruction, and even go on to have a child, who would later be adopted as Christopher Kent.
The Kryptonian city Kandor, was also spared from destruction as it was shrunk by Brainiac. Kryptonian people live there in standard but microscopic, non-superpowered lives. Also, the inhabitants of the planet Daxam are descendants of Kryptonians who long ago ventured into space and settled on another planet, and as such possess similar powers and abilities when on the planet Earth.
The monster Doomsday is the last of the prehistoric Kryptonians.
In Superman, teenage Clark discovers who he is in the Fortress of Solitude, where a hologram of Jor-El tells him, "You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton." This remark appears to prove untrue in Superman II, as prisoners of the Phantom Zone, such as General Zod, also survive the destruction of Krypton. However, Zod and his lieutenants only survived because they were at that time incarcerated within the Phantom Zone and were not in fact on Krypton at the time of its destruction. The film Supergirl shows inhabitants of Argo City who also survived, including Superman's cousin Supergirl. In Superman Returns, it is revealed that Clark is father to the half-Kryptonian child Jason White.
In Man of Steel, Kryptonians are depicted as being a genetically-engineered race of beings, a practice used for artificial population control and meant to make it so that the people could be more efficient in their regards as a scientist (Jor-El and Lara), Warrior (General Zod and Faora), etc. Long before then, they were a race in the midst of an era of expansion, traveling to other worlds via scout ships to possibly settle on and build outposts there (which implied children were created the traditional way). Kal-El is the first (and technically, last) naturally-born Kryptonian in centuries, as Jor-El and Lara believed Krypton was something precious and wished to capitalize on this belief. As in the comics, Kal-El's, known to the world as "Superman", powers are depicted as being superior to other Kryptonians due to his spending a far longer amount of time exposed to Earth's yellow sun and atmosphere, though some have an advantage over him in terms of combat experience (e.g. Zod, Faora, and Nam-Ek). Interestingly, while the other Kryptonians receive great strength and speed from the Earth's sun, they require solar-suits to regulate the radiation and avoid being stricken by pain. In addition, it is shown that without some form of training, Kryptonians are left vulnerable to their own abilities, as the case with Zod when Superman destroyed his solar-visor and caused him to develop a sensory overload.
In Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, it was shown that a sizable Kryptonian colony (called New Krypton) has survived the destruction of the planet. Clark had to go to the colony as its official ruler, but returned to Earth soon after.
In Smallville, Clark Kent initially believes himself to be the last survivor of Krypton. However, his father Jor-El's memories remains sentient in the mysterious Kawatche Caves and Fortress of Solitude an disembodied AI, and the disembodied spirit of Zod is similarly sentient albeit trapped in the Phantom Zone. In Season Five, Clark discovers that the Disciples of Zod: Nam-Ek & Aethyr and a Kryptonian artificial intelligence: Brain-Interactive-Construct aka Brainiac arrive on Earth, serving Zod's trapped spirit. In Season Six, Clark discovers his father's assistant Raya was spared by being placed in the Phantom Zone, with her body intact. She helped Clark on Earth until her death a short time after her escape from the Phantom Zone. Season Seven introduces Kara Zor-El, having been sent to Earth at the same time of Clark but trapped in suspended animation since then; later, through schemes put into practice before his death, Clark's uncle Zor-El and mother Lara are resurrected with powers intact for a time. Later, it is revealed that another Kryptonian, the scientist Dax-Ur, has been living on Earth for over a hundred years, using Blue Kryptonite to render himself powerless, and has even fathered a son with his human wife. Dax-Ur is killed soon after by Brainiac. In Season 8, it is revealed that Zod's wife Faora, also a disembodied wraith, was sent into the Phantom Zone with her husband, but not before they genetically engineered their son, fusing genetic material taken from the most violent Kryptonian life-forms with their own. The child was attached to Clark's ship in the form of a cocoon; on Earth it assumed a human form and became known as Davis Bloome, but would periodically assume its true form: the monster Doomsday. In the season finale, Zod makes his first full bodied appearance on the series, along with a large number of other Kryptonians who are later revealed to be clones created as part of an old experiment. Initially powerless due to their cells having been treated with blue kryptonite radiation, these clones later gain powers when Clark is forced to provide Zod with a sample of his blood to heal him after he is shot, Zod using this blood to empower his followers. The clones are relocated to a new world that they designate 'New Krypton' at the conclusion of Season Nine, with Clark Kent remaining on Earth and Zod being sent to the Phantom Zone to merge with his original self when the clones learn that Zod killed his lover Faora for objecting to his plans.
In Superman: The Animated Series and later Justice League Unlimited, the only survivors of Krypton are Clark, and two Phantom Zone criminals (Jax-Ur and Mala, introduced in "Blasts From the Past", parts 1 and 2). Kara In-Zee, alias Supergirl, is the lone survivor of Argos, Krypton's sister planet knocked out by the planet's explosion; however, in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Fearful Symmetry", Doctor Emil Hamilton, who has examined Superman, calls her DNA "Kryptonian", indicating that Argosians are genetically related to Kryptonians. Failed clones of Superman (the mentally handicapped Bizarro and the monstrous Doomsday) and Supergirl (the sociopathic Galatea) are later created.
In Legion of Superheroes, the citizens of Kandor, Superman and his clone Superman-X, might all be considered surviving Kryptonians.
- Kryptonians at the Comic Book DB
- Kryptonian.info—information about the various incarnations of the Kryptonian language over Superman's history
- Dr. Christine Schreyer's Kryptonian Page—Dr. Schreyer is a linguistic anthropologist hired to create the Kryptonian language depicted in the 2013 film Man of Steel
- Alan Kistler's Profile On: SUPERMAN—Comic book historian Alan Kistler gives a detailed analysis of Superman over the decades, as well as the different interpretations of the planet Krypton and how Kryptonians acted.